[Marxism] An Italian’s Brutal Death in Egypt Chills Relations

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 5 14:08:24 MST 2016


NY Times, Feb. 5 2016
An Italian’s Brutal Death in Egypt Chills Relations
By DECLAN WALSH

CAIRO — Four months ago, Giulio Regeni, an Italian doctoral candidate at 
Cambridge University, arrived in Cairo to improve his Arabic and conduct 
research among the city’s street vendors.

Now Mr. Regeni, 28, is dead. His body was discovered, half-naked and 
“with evident signs of torture,” in a ditch on the city limits, 
prompting an angry reaction on Thursday from Italian officials who 
seemed deeply skeptical that Egypt would be able, or willing, to find 
those who killed him.

In Rome, Italian officials summoned Egypt’s ambassador and pressed him 
to allow a joint investigation into the killing. In Cairo, a 
government-led Italian trade delegation cut short its stay and went home.

“We want the truth to come out, every last bit of it,” said the Italian 
foreign affairs minister, Paolo Gentiloni, in an interview with the 
national broadcaster RAI. “We owe that much to a family that has been 
stricken in an irreparable way and, at the very least, has the right to 
know the truth.”

The complication, for Egypt and Italy, though largely unspoken, was that 
Mr. Regeni did not just bear the telltale signs of torture, but that the 
cigarette burns and head wounds were a signature form of abuse 
frequently associated with the Egyptian security forces. There was no 
proof Mr. Regeni had even been in police custody, and it would be out of 
character for the authorities to abuse a Westerner. But worries about 
the impunity of the Egyptian security forces have been growing of late, 
and an initial declaration by officials that Mr. Regeni had died in a 
car accident also raised suspicions.

Mr. Regini vanished on Jan. 25 when, on the fifth anniversary of the 
uprising that ultimately ousted President Hosni Mubarak, he left his 
apartment for a meeting with a friend at a downtown cafe. It was a day 
of considerable tension in Cairo: thousands of police officers were 
scattered across the city to halt any antigovernment protest after a 
weekslong crackdown that saw the police arrest activists, shutter arts 
spaces and search apartments.

Friends said that Mr. Regeni was last seen walking toward his local 
metro station at about 7 p.m. The search to find him ramped up in recent 
days amid Internet appeals for information and as his parents flew to 
Cairo, but ended on Wednesday when his body was found on the desert 
highway leading to Alexandria.

Ahmed Nagy, the Egyptian prosecutor in charge of the investigation, said 
Mr. Regeni was naked from the waist down and with “evident signs of 
torture all over.” The wounds, which in addition to apparent cigarette 
burns included small stab marks, were “concentrated around the face and 
body,” Mr. Nagy said.

An autopsy completed on Thursday afternoon indicated that he had died 
from “internal bleeding to the brain as a result of a beating to the head.”

Mr. Nagy cautioned, however, that his findings were preliminary and that 
the forensic authorities had yet to issue a final report.

Suspicions of an official hand in Mr. Regeni’s death stem from the 
disappearance into custody of hundreds of Egyptians, often without 
formal arrest, over the past year, human rights groups say.

Still, it would be rare for a foreigner to disappear in such a manner. 
And Mr. Regeni, described by friends as an open-spirited and culturally 
dexterous student, was conducting research that appeared to be of little 
threat to jittery authorities.

Although Mr. Regeni’s chosen subject, informal labor organization, can 
be politically sensitive in Egypt, he had been cautious in his work, 
said Rabab el-Mahdi, his supervisor at the American University in Cairo. 
“He steered clear of anything that was politicized,” she said.

Friends said they could not rule out the possibility that his death was 
the result of a random criminal act, a botched kidnapping or Islamist 
militancy, though they acknowledged having no special insight into the 
investigation. In August, a militant group associated with the Islamic 
State beheaded a Croatian man, Tomislav Salopek, after snatching him on 
the outskirts of Cairo.

Still, there was concern that the authorities would not conduct a 
thorough investigation.

“What we know is that it is an accident,” Alaa Azmi, the deputy head of 
criminal investigations in Cairo’s twin province of Giza, told The 
Associated Press before the autopsy had been completed.

Reflexive denials of foul play are common among Egyptian officials, 
especially in matters that could embarrass the state. Investigations 
into the deaths of other foreigners in recent months, including eight 
Mexican tourists who were killed by accident by the security forces in 
the Western Desert, have been criticized for a lack of transparency.

The murky circumstances of Mr. Regeni’s death caused a visible chill in 
Egypt’s relations with Italy, which was the first Western country to 
welcome Mr. Sisi after the ouster of the democratically elected 
president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013. On Wednesday, reports that Mr. 
Regeni’s body had been found prompted an Italian trade delegation, led 
by the economic development minister, Federica Guidi, to cut short a 
visit to Cairo. Earlier, Ms. Guida had urged Mr. Sisi to intervene 
personally in the case, Italian media outlets reported.

On Thursday, the Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it 
expected “maximum collaboration at all levels in light of the 
exceptional gravity of what happened.”

Italy said it was asking Egypt to “immediately start a joint 
investigation with the participation of Italian experts.”

After a meeting with Mr. Gentiloni in London, Egypt’s foreign minister, 
Sameh Shoukry, said only that the two countries had agreed to increase 
cooperation “to determine the cause of the death.”

On her Facebook page, the Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif said there was 
“something so extra sad about a person who comes to Egypt in good faith 
to live and study and gets caught in this nightmare, this obtuse and 
brutal thuggery that’s the undertone of our lives here today.”

Merna Thomas contributed reporting from Cairo, and Gaia Pianigiani from 
Rome.



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